April 24 – Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

The Armenian Genocide refers to the slaughter and fatal deportation of hundreds of thousands to over a million Armenians as well as intentional and irreversible ruination of their economic and cultural life environments during the government of the Young Turks from 1915 to 1917 in the Ottoman Empire.

It is now widely acknowledged to have been the first true genocide, and Western sources sometimes point to the sheer scale of the death toll as evidence for a systematic, organized plan to eliminate the Armenians. The event is also said to be the second-most studied case of genocide. To date twenty-one countries have officially recognized it as genocide.

While Turkey acknowledges that during World War I many Armenians died, it also states that Muslims died as well and that massacres were committed on both sides as a result of inter-ethnic violence and the wider conflict of World War I. The Turkish government also does not accept the deaths were the results of an intention from Ottoman authorities to eliminate Armenian people indiscriminately.

Read more about the genocide

We’re hosting a FLEX student from Armenia!

For the last couple months we have been working with American Councils to have an exchange student come stay with us for a year. After many roadblocks with the local school district and private schools, we finally were able to receive a slot with Eugene 4J School District. Our exchange student is going to come from Armenia and her name is Hranush. She is going to be entering the 9th grade this year and will attend the high school across the street from us.

While serving in Armenia, we were part of the testing process that allowed students an opportunity to study in America. Though our students didn’t make the cut this year, we are excited that we were able to host an Armenian. The program is the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program. The program is funded through the Department of State and allows for students in the former Soviet bloc to study in America for 1 school year. The testing process is rigorous and involves a grammar test, two essay tests, and a former interview. Everything is in English. Of the hundreds or thousands who test in Armenia, only 50 make the cut.

Hranush will arrive next week and stay with us until June. We look forward to telling you more about her as time goes on. Take care everyone!

Environmental Issues in Armenia

I found this series of articles that highlights current environmental problems in Armenia at “Armenia Now“. The website reports on the current events of Armenia and offers insight into the political process that is shaping Armenia.

The article in the top right on the Alaverdi Copper factory was especially intriguing to me because Laura and I lived in Alaverdi during our Peace Corps service. The fact that the hazards arising from the pollution are being exposed is a step in the right direction. Many of the local people felt that the factory is a problem but that it was important to the economy for it to stay open. I am not sure this true. The factory employees 400 employees in an area of 20,000 people. I think that by shutting it down, their will be health improvements, the local vegetation will improve, and more tourists will choose to visit and STAY in the area. Right now, tourists quickly shuffle in to see the churches and then leave, staying maybe an hour or so. Eco-tourism has huge potential in the area.  The site of the factory turns many people off to the idea of this venture. The economy can improve more if the factory was not in service.

The other articles are important in shedding some light on the environmental/human rights issues that plague Armenia. Restructering of the government needs to be done in order for any of these issues to be dealt with properly. If the people continue to unite, to speak up and to encourage the government to listen to their concerns, I think that there may be some hope. All the issues are difficult to work with because of the instability of the infrastructure and the weak economy, though it is improving.

To view the top two articles, “This Land is Our Land…” and “The Breath of Death…”, click the link next to the English link in the top right corner. This link says “Armenian” and is spelled in the Armenian language. Once it is in Armenian, click the article, you will view the article in Armenian, then click the English link in the top right corner again to view. For some reason these two articles are not linked properly, otherwise the others can viewed just fine.

The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.
~Woodrow WilsonÂ

Alaverdi School #8

I am excited that I found this website.  This is the website of the school we worked at while serving in the Peace Corps.  I took a few of the photos posted, which I am excited to see were used.  When we left the Peace Corps the site was still under construction.  When you visit the site, it will take some time to download the photos.  Be patient.

Alaverdi School #8